Since 2018, medical cannabis has been legal in the UK.
However it is still difficult to get a prescription on the NHS because they only prescribed it for patients with the following conditions:
- children and adults with severe forms of epilepsy
- adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
- people with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS)
This is unfortunate because there is a wealth of research available that supports making the plant available for other medical conditions.
This means that for the majority of us, the only way to legally access cannabis is through a private prescription. In order to qualify, a patient will usually be required to have tried two other treatments for their illness.
If you are interested in trying medical cannabis, follow these four simple steps to getting a medical cannabis prescription in the UK in 2022.
Step One: Locate a Medical Cannabis Clinic
Step Two: Schedule an Appointment
Before your appointment, the medical cannabis clinic will need to obtain a copy of your Summary Care Record from your general practitioner. Since medical cannabis can interact with other drugs, your prescriber will need to see a list of medications you are currently taking.
During your appointment, which can be in person or via a video call, a specialist will ask you a series of questions. Working through an assessment, you will discuss previous treatments as well as the impact of your symptoms on your life. You may also be asked if you have used cannabis before, either to treat your condition or recreationally.
At your appointment, be sure to ask questions and discuss any concerns with the doctors or consultants. Additionally, you may find it useful to take notes so that you can follow up on important information after your appointment is over.
Step Three: Pick Up Your Prescription
Before you pick up your medical cannabis prescription, you will need to pay for it. Prescription costs vary between pharmacies, but are higher than typical black market cannabis. You may be able to receive a reduced price subsidy for your medical cannabis prescription through organisations like Project Twenty21. In exchange for tracking the medical cannabis treatments of eligible patients, Project Twenty21 offers discounted prices on medical cannabis treatments.
Now that you have a medical cannabis prescription, you need to follow your specialist’s instructions to properly take the appropriate dosage. The amount of medical cannabis you get with your prescription depends on your condition. On average, most medical cannabis prescriptions are about a gram of cannabis per day. Sadly, this is currently at a huge and unreasonable cost, ranging between £350 and £500 per month. Whilst it is many times the price of illegal cannabis, it does have far superior medicinal properties.
Most medical cannabis prescribed in the UK is actually grown in Canada. As one of the earliest adopters of legalised medical marijuana, the nation produces some of the world’s best. Importing medical cannabis is an extremely strict, regulated process under the control of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Three medical cannabis prescriptions are very popular in the UK. They are:
- Epidyolex, which can be used to control seizure frequency in patients with epilepsy.
- Nabilone, which is used by chemotherapy patients who are suffering from severe nausea. It can only be prescribed when other treatments have not worked.
- Nabiximols (Sativex) which can help patients with Multiple Sclerosis control their muscle spasticity.
As with any prescription, you may have side effects. Common side effects from cannabis are anxiousness, bloodshot eyes, panic, paranoia, increased appetite, impaired coordination, and altered states of consciousness. Be mindful of any reactions or symptoms that you have after taking your medical cannabis prescription, as you should bring these up during your follow-up appointment.
Step Four: Schedule a Follow-Up Appointment
After you have had your initial consultation, picked up your prescription, and begun your medical cannabis regimen, you will need to schedule a follow-up appointment.
Your follow-up appointment is usually scheduled within four weeks of your initial consultation. Its purpose is to discuss the efficacy of your medical cannabis prescription and whether your dosage needs to be adjusted. Keep in mind that it may take some trial and error to figure out which dose is best for you. If you do not schedule a follow-up appointment, you might not be able to continue receiving your medical cannabis prescription in the future.
In 2016, the American National Institute of Health noted that there were over 165 cannabis-related studies occurring globally, which shows how significant cannabis research is to the future of modern medicine. Hopefully in the future, the NICE will recommend cannabis-based medical prescriptions for a larger number of health conditions. Until then, more research is needed to argue for the widespread adoption of affordable, evidence-based cannabis medicines for patients in the UK who need them.
If traditional medicine has been unable to alleviate symptoms from your health condition, medical cannabis might be a treatment option for you.